Local cancer charity Mark McCarthy’s Magic Moments explain the work they do in our area:
We arrange supportive outings for patients that otherwise remain isolated and ensure that the most vulnerable/terminal cancer patients have food at Christmas time.
In the summer, we take 120 patients and carers on a boat trip down the Thames. We transport the patients and carers from Queen’s and King George’s hospitals to Tilbury docks; on the boat, we supply drinks, lunch and afternoon tea; and then we take them back to their hospitals.
In the winter, we take 120 patients and carers to the pantomime and for lunch afterwards. We take them to the local theatre, then from the theatre to a restaurant, for a 2-course meal and a quiz.
We also provide food and gift hampers for patients and their families who are terminally ill, or who are under extreme financial pressure due to their illness.
There are no staff costs, as all time is given free by healthcare professionals and volunteers. The charity is organised and run by healthcare professionals, and by volunteers with a particular interest in helping cancer patients (often a past patient or relative of a patient). To support this work, we hold regular fundraising events, ranging from jumble sales and quiz/race nights, to karaoke and sponsored events.
Cancer patients require more than just medical treatment to support them through their diagnosis, treatment and end of life. Our aims are to give patients the opportunity to socialise and build support networks, thus helping their mental wellbeing. Patients become isolated for many reasons – their appearance can change so their confidence is reduced, they can find it hard to talk about how they are feeling, and for some, relatives are in different countries and so unable to provide support. Language can also be a problem, raising levels of anxiety. All these factors increase the likelihood of admittance to hospital, when time with the family is so precious.
The trips we offer give patients and carers the opportunity for a day out that they otherwise would not have – some are wheelchair bound, some are dependent on oxygen, etc. As there are nurses on board, they feel well supported, but more importantly, the trips give them the opportunity to talk to others and to develop support networks. The trips also help carers to get support from each other.
Cancer causes a great deal of financial pressure. We try to alleviate some of this by providing a large food hamper and toys for patients’ children at Christmas time. A last Christmas with a loved one is emotional and stressful. We try and help to make these times special.
We also work with children after parents have passed away; memories and photos play a major part in the healing process.
How the community at large deals with cancer patients is extremely important. It must not be a taboo subject. So we go into local schools and tell young people about cancer and how to help prevent it, and also explain about the emotional and financial effect cancer has on families. This gives children whose parents have cancer an opportunity to open up to their peers, giving them support outside of the home.
At any event or collection we hold, information on cancer prevention is available, and healthcare professionals are there for the public to ask questions about anything to do with cancer care.
Ultimately, we aim to promote stronger communities and healthier and more active people. Cancer touches every one of us; we all know someone that has been affected by this disease. We do what we can to bring together cancer patients in informal settings. It gives them the chance to talk about “normal everyday things”, and shows that their lives are not all about cancer. Barriers are broken down, allowing patients to open up, and know they’re not alone in how they feel.